I have always considered turn-based strategies relaxing, even southing. You have time to calculate your next move, to make long-term strategies even if the enemy is looking at you with weapons at ready, stunned in a menacing position because it’s not his turn. Add to that recipe a little space story, nice-looking ships and an intelligent AI and you get a cake that can be enjoyed nights in a row. Dark Avatar is a 4x space strategy game, and an expansion to the acclaimed Galactic Civilizations 2: Dread Lords, which was also produced by Stardock, a company with quite a reputation in the genre.
A long time ago, two old civilizations battled in the known universe, known only as the Precursors. The Dread Lords (the bad guys) are about to conquer the Arnor’s (good guys) last world, when both races disappear without explanation, leaving everybody else to mind their own conflicts. Dark Avatar picks up the story where the original left it, at the end of the war between the Human Alliance (containing three races) and the Drengin Empire. The Empire all but destroyed the Alliance, leaving only Terra (which was protected by a powerful shield) unconquered, when internal strife arises. The Empire now stands divided between the classic Drengins, who wish to enslave all races to be used as workforce and the rebels of the Korath Clan, who care little about unemployment rates and just want to exterminate everyone. Two more races join the fray in Dark Avatar, and if you have the patience to follow this soap-opera where everybody fights everybody, then a single-player campaign awaits you to put a stop to the Korath Clan rebels, for the glory of the Drengin Empire (much my delight, as I realized that Humans are just struggling for survival). If you chose not to, then you should head for the skirmish mode, where the game really shines; not to mention the fact that these are the only options available, since there’s no multiplayer mode.
In skirmish we have a lot of customization options for our game experience, starting with galaxy size, number of planets and asteroids, rate of development for research, and the number of minor races (aside from the original twelve). There are no less than four ways to win the game: the classic conquer everything, bring the galaxy together in an alliance, win through influence or be the smartest guy around and score a technological victory. The next step is the race selection, each of the twelve having their own advantages, or you can create a new custom race. This is a very useful option, as you can select the economic and military bonuses that fit your play style, as well as the political party that offers specific advantages, not to mention the colors and banners.
In Dark Avatar there are also Super-Abilities available, which are just a new type of bonuses: Super – Warriors will always strike first, Super-Diplomats will have the upper hand in negotiations etc. There are no downsides when selecting these options, such as being penalized in the army area if you choose an economic bonus, and thus the choices become just personal styles of play, where available points to invest seem too few in number. Before starting the game you can also choose the number of opponents and their difficulty level, or you can design a new opponent altogether: you’ll get the chance to configure its intelligence, nature and even the amount of processor used by its routines.